2019 - Sept - Gazette - Burial or Cremation
Burial or Cremation
Before I worked with Koch Funeral Home, my husband and I occasionally had conversations about how we wanted our bodies cared for after death. He chose traditional burial with services and I cremation with nothing else. My choice elicited remarks from him such as, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen.” He was always clear about the importance of honoring life both in life and in death. I believed in an afterlife and wasn’t concerned about the part of me that remained here.
And then I started companioning people around end-of-life situations, learned more about death care and my feelings totally changed.
Decisions about how to care for a person after death are very personal and there are no right or wrong choices. What matters is those choices are authentic for you and your loved ones.
I started considering what felt most authentic for me and my loved ones and a couple of choices began to reveal themselves. First, instead of being cremated, I now want to be buried. I try to live my life being gentle with myself, others and the world. To me, burial feels gentler than cremation. I also try to live hand-in-hand with nature. For example, I gave birth without any medication, breastfed our children, prefer open windows to air conditioning, eat mostly whole foods, and exercise in barefoot shoes, to name a few. As our children grew, they tired of me saying, “You can’t beat nature.” True, I’m also a consumer of Western healthcare, technology, etc., but if I’m able, I’ll choose nature. The thought of my body one day returning to the earth and helping to nourish the soil for plant and animal life gives me comfort. Burial feels close to nature. Obviously, the fire of cremation is nature too, but I prefer what feels like less intervention with burial.
No doubt, you’re wondering how I feel that burial with a casket and vault can feel natural. Some of my choices are still a work in progress and I hope they won’t have to be made for some time. But if I had to choose today, my choice would be a biodegradable seagrass and bamboo woven casket. They are visually attractive plus sturdy enough to make transporting easy. As for a vault, I’d choose a cemetery that doesn’t require one or allows for its upside-down placement so my casket can touch the ground. Most local cemeteries require vaults for the integrity of the grounds, in other words, so the ground doesn’t sink and make for dangerous walking conditions and problems with headstones. Placing the vault or grave liner upside-down protects the grounds and allows for casket contact with the soil.
Being buried in a cemetery with a headstone or marker also provides a place for my loved ones to go to remember and a place for our family history to be preserved. I’ve spent time in the Milroy cemetery where generations of my family are interred and seen the significance of that preservation realized in the eyes of our children. I want to enable future family members to have that same opportunity.
In terms of services, that answer has also continued to reveal itself. I now understand that personalized services can be both healing and meaningful for those who live on. Throughout history humans have cared for their dead. For many years, religions prescribed how to do that. According to a recent Gallup poll, only half of Americans say they belong to a religious institution. This means that many people have no reference for what to do. Just as we see with disasters like 9/11, something deep down tells us to both find and care for the bodies and tell the stories, the two components of funerals. Telling the stories is what happens at services and gatherings and helps mourners heal. We tell the stories of the person’s life and we tell the larger story of the importance of life and our beliefs about what happens afterwards. I want my loved ones to feel the support of community in these services and gatherings and know they’re not alone.
Again, these are simply my thoughts at this time in my life. As I evolve, so will my choices. I hope you find the choices that matter most to you too. As Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt said, “Dealing with death is the root of culture.” Make your decisions with care.
Discussing these types of choices sometimes happens at the Death Café. Please join us there or at one of our support gatherings:
- Monday’s Moments Complimentary Luncheon – “Self-Care is Unique,” Monday, October 7 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 1730 University Drive, State College. Email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-404-0546 or sign up on the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page to RSVP by Thursday, September 5th.
- Healing with Love: A Retreat for Those Who Lost a Loved One, Saturday, October 12 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the Black Bear Pavilion, State College at $15 per person. RSVP by emailing Jackie@JackieHook.com, calling 814-404-0546 or by visiting the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page by Monday, October 7.
- Death Café, the third of Monday of the month, October 21 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Webster’s Bookstore Café, 133 East Beaver Avenue, State College with Complimentary Desserts Provided by Webster’s.
For more information about these programs, please visit Koch Funeral Home website’s Bereavement Gatherings and Events section under the Local Resources tab. All of these events are open to the public and space is limited.
Jackie Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula. She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College. For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.